Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter. In my first newsletter since Christmas and the New Year, let me wish you all a Happy New Year.
Space prevents the newsletter covering all of what I have been doing over the past month. However, hopefully it provides a flavour of some of the local issues I have taken up as well as my actions in Parliament. You’ll find updates on food banks, community transport and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
In Birmingham Northfield
In recent years, the rise in the number of local people requiring the support of food banks has been growing at an alarming rate and 2017 was no different. During 2017, the B30 Food Bank based at Cotteridge Church provided food to 7501 people, including 4350 adults and 3151 children.
Earlier this month I visited the B30 Food Bank to collect food for one of my constituents who is effectively housebound. The volunteers that I spoke to at the Food Bank reported a major increase in demand at the same time as Universal Credit is being rolled-out by the Government. Under Universal Credit people are having to wait five weeks or longer for their first payment and they are simply running out of the money they need to pay their rent or mortgage, gas and electricity bills and to buy food.
I am calling on the Government to pause and fix its roll out of Universal Credit before more hardship is caused to people in Northfield. Until the Government do this, it is likely that still more people will have no alternative but to turn to food banks for help. This will mean that local food banks will continue to depend on the incredible generosity of people in Northfield.
You can read more about my recent visit to B30 Food Bank here.
Takeover Bid at GKN
GKN are an engineering group making automotive and aerospace components with a plant based in Kings Norton. In recent weeks GKN have been subject to a hostile takeover bid that has been put to the shareholders of GKN by Melrose.
As outlined in this article by Professor David Bailey of Aston Business School, there are genuine concerns that this takeover would most likely see the firm broken up and various units sold off to different buyers over time. This would be bad for the UK’s aerospace and automotive sectors and bad for employees of GKN.
GKN’s plant at Kings Norton employs over 200 people, I have been in contact with union representatives from the branch who have expressed that both the unions and GKN’s management are against this takeover. I will be doing what I can to provide my support against this takeover. In the Commons today I pressed the Government on the impact of this potential takeover and I hope to have the opportunity to further raise this matter with Government Ministers in the coming weeks.
There is great concern regarding the impact that Carillion’s liquidation will have on people and businesses in the West Midlands. I have been in close contact with Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and Skills, Brett O’Reilly concerning the impact of Carillion’s collapse and what can be done to assist employees and trainees affected in addition to businesses with contracts with Carillion.
A meeting is being arranged with partner agencies in Birmingham to help coordinate these efforts, hopefully building on lessons learned from the MG Rover Task Force over a decade ago. What has happened to Carillion is rightly also shining a spotlight on the dangers of the current Government’s dogmatic approach to outsourcing public services, including how senior executives have been able to enrich themselves whilst employees have been left exposed and vulnerable to market failure.
Community transport providers, like Shencare based in Northfield, play a vital role in our community, providing affordable and accessible door to door transport to some of the most vulnerable individuals in South Birmingham.
Last year the Government notified community transport providers that it is proposing a significant change to the way it interprets legislation relating to how community transport providers are licensed and operate. I have serious concerns about the impact that any change could have on community transport providers and the people who rely on this service.
It is unsurprising that the Government’s position has caused real alarm in the not-for-profit sector. Last week in the Commons I urged the Government for clarity on their intended action and to show real support for the community transport sector and firms like Shencare. You can catch up on my question and the Government’s response here.
The Rohingya crisis
Earlier this month, the International Development Committee which I am a member of released its latest report on Bangladesh and Burma: the Rohingya crisis. This report is part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Department for International Development’s work in Bangladesh and Burma and examines the UK’s response to the humanitarian situation for Rohingya people fleeing from Burma to Bangladesh.
The findings of our report are alarming. Rape and sexual violence remain weapons of war used by the Burmese military against the Rohingya people and there are grave concerns about the potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Burma. Our report provides a powerful reminder to the international community that we need to work much harder to protect populations from threats, persecution and humanitarian crises.
You can read the conclusions and recommendations of our report here.
Meeting students in Parliament
It is always a pleasure to be able to welcome students from local schools to Parliament and it was no different last week when I met students from Cadbury College, based in Kings Norton. Following a tour of the Palace of Westminster, I took part in a ‘political speed debating event’ with the students.
This included small groups of students quizzing me on a range of different issues, such as the details of the Government’s Brexit Bill and my experience as an MP. I was very impressed by the knowledge and interest displayed by the students and I look forward to welcoming more students from local schools to Parliament in the coming months.
Many people don’t realise is that Parliament is open to everyone and I welcome all constituents to get in touch with me if they would like help with visiting Parliament and arranging a guided tour – I would certainly recommend it.
EU Withdrawal Bill leaves Commons for House of Lords
Over the past few months, the Parliamentary agenda has been dominated by debates on the Government’s EU (Withdrawal) Bill which covers not whether Brexit should take place. Rather it covers the terms on which Brexit should be approached by the Government, including how environmental and other protections, together with UK citizen’s rights and freedoms that are currently guaranteed by EU legislation, can be converted into UK law following Brexit. It is a highly controversial piece of legislation because of the way Government Ministers have tried to use the Bill to take more power for themselves at the expense of scrutiny by elected MPs and the public.
Despite the deficiencies in the Bill which led me and other Opposition MPs to support amendments to it, the Bill completed its House of Commons stages this month. It now goes to the House of Lords for further consideration before coming back to the Commons – probably around May.
Animal Welfare Round Up
The welfare of animals is a cause close to my heart and I regularly release an Animal Welfare Round Up that updates constituents on the issues that many of you get in touch with me about.
This week I have released my latest update which covers the action I’ve taken on your behalf on issues such as animal sentience, the excessive use of plastic and cosmetic testing on animals. You can find my latest update here.